Leaving your child so you can go to work is never easy, especially when you are leaving them for the first time and with someone other than family. If you know that you have to go back to work at some point, you will need to prepare yourself and choose the right daycare or babysitter.
You may have a lot of questions about how to choose the right daycare or babysitter because you are, after all, trusting your child’s life to a stranger. There are many things to look for and questions to ask when trying to choose the right daycare or babysitter.
- Insist on a visit. If you are choosing a daycare, insist that you visit the daycare, and try to go at a time that your child will be attending. This means you will get a little glimpse into what your child will be doing while she is there. If you are looking for an in home babysitter, insist that they visit your house so you can see how your child interacts with the babysitter and how the babysitter interacts with your child.
- Observe the interactions. When looking at a daycare, make sure to look at how the caregivers interact with the children who are there. Try to get your child on the floor to see how she interacts with the caregivers if possible. If you are looking for an in home babysitter, watch how your child and the potential babysitter interact together. If the caregiver(s) are not interacting with any of the children it is a good sign that they don’t usually interact with them.
- Look around. Many daycares have different rooms based on the child’s age because there are different requirements and activities for different age groups. Don’t just look at the room your child will be in, look at the other rooms that she will eventually move too. Also, look to see how clean the floors look. Kids spend most of their time playing on the floor and you want to make sure the daycare has clean floors and toys.
- Look for a commitment. Children and babies thrive on consistency and predictable care. Ask the daycare about how long caregivers stay with them and if you are looking for an in home babysitter, ask for a 6 month or year commitment.
- Make sure they have proper licensing. One of the biggest questions you should ask is if they have all the proper licenses. This also means that you should check how many employees are CPR certified. Ideally they would all be CPR certified and know basic first aid.
- Ask about policies. Make sure you ask about how toys are cleaned, how much time your child will spend watching TV or playing video games, ask about snack policies and anything else you can think of. Some daycares will supply formula and bottles for babies, while other will require you to bring them with you every day. Make sure you know what you need to bring daily with your child and what you can leave at home. Some daycares also have a minimum number of days you must bring your child. For example, when I was initially looking into daycare for my daughter, the daycare required I bring her a minimum of 3 days a week. This didn’t work for me as I only needed daycare about 2 days a week most weeks, since they were closed on weekends.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If anything pops into your head while you are visiting, or even after you get back home, you can call and ask. They should be able to answer your question, if they can’t or don’t then you should pick a different daycare. If you have any questions make sure they are answered before you start taking your child there.
- Make sure you can communicate freely. Keep talking to those who will be caring for your child because until your child is able to tell you about their day, the caregivers will be your source of information. Make sure you are able to tell them when they have had a bad morning and they can tell you when they just wouldn’t nap.
- Check references. The best way to learn about a daycare or babysitter is to look at their references. If you know other moms who take their kids to a certain daycare, ask them what they thought, or you can look online. You can even just ask for a list of references.
- Look at what you can afford. Sadly, this may be the biggest thing that determines what daycare you use. Now, you shouldn’t choose a daycare just because it is cheap, but you may not be able to pick the daycare you like best due to price. You may have to find a balance between cost and quality.
- You can make changes. If you start taking your child to a daycare and over time something just isn’t right and you don’t like what is going on or your child acts strange when you drop her off, you can change daycares. Even though babies thrive on consistency, they can handle changes and the most important thing is that they are in a positive and nuturing environment.
- Trust your gut. Most often your gut is right, so if you just don’t have a good feeling about something, don’t go with that daycare or babysitter.
If you are trying to choose the right daycare for you and your child, you may think it is overwhelming and you will never find a place you are comfortable leaving your child. I promise you that it does get better and every time you drop your child off it gets a little easier, the first week is the roughest.
How did you choose the right daycare for your child? Do you have any tips for choosing the right daycare or babysitter?